Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Lamingtons for the Melbourne Cup

Caramel Lamingtons and Gunleaf Lamingtons
It was Melbourne Cup day (a very famous horse race in Australia which stops the nation) and I did caramel lamingtons and gumleaf lamingtons, a traditional treat on national holidays. Caramel lamingtons use day-old caramel cake cut into cubes, filled with caramelised butter icing coated in a layer of caramel syrup and then rolled in desiccated coconut.

The caramel cake was delicious and ridiculously moist, the syrup was easy and the icing simple - I will make these again!!!! A great addition on the day.

Use the recipe (see below) as stated but bake in a lamington pan (33cmx23cmx3cm or 13”x9”x1”). It takes 30 mins to cook. Makes about 48 lamingtons, each takes about three to four mouthfuls to eat. The recipe is exactly the correct amount to half-fill the pan and it doubles in size when cooked.

Also I did some flavoured with gum-leaf oil (Eucalyptus flavour) use 1/8 drop of food-grade oil instead of vanilla extract. These were the first to go! This is a typical use (of gunleaf oil) in Australia also it is used in combination with caramel or honey in desserts or with coriander, garlic or honey in savoury sauces. You can dilute (2 drops of gumleaf oil to 1 litre of olive oil) and dab onto smoked salmon or BBQ meats.

I didn't win the racing-pool and the dream I had suggested a jockey with blue and white, again wrong. I only bet a very small amount. But it is the fun, food, drinks and the company that makes for a great day. O it was won by the Australian horse called Viewed.
Helping Dolores ( host this month are Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, Jenny of Foray into Food ( And since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we’ve once again turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go ( to assist us.

Our leading lady this month is Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater ( and her signature caramel cake. And in a supporting role we have an optional challenge: Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels, with LOTS of variation. Guaranteed to keep us all on a sugar-induced high all month!

THE RULES: You must make both the cake and the caramelized butter frosting. Beyond that, we’re leaving it open and we’re anxious to see what variations you come up with… in size, in shape, in flavors you might pair with the caramel, in decoration, in how you incorporate the caramel candy. As Rosa said last month, use your imagination and have fun!

If you're making the caramels, Alice Medrich's recipe provides several alternatives flavour combinations. Feel free to use one of hers or create one of your own.
Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (, as published on Bay Area Bites ( Shuna Fish Lydon’s recipe (

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111
If you’re looking for additional guidance on the cake, Shuna’s got some great information posted here as well ( and here (


142g unsalted butter at room temperature
280g granulated sugar
½ tsp/2.5 ml kosher salt
80ml Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
286g  all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon/2.5ml baking powder
240ml milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F/176c/gas mark 4

Butter one tall (5-6/2 – 2.5 inch deep) 23cm/9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


450g cups sugar
120ml cup water
240ml cup water (for "stopping")
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons (170.5 grams) unsalted butter
454g confectioner’s sugar/icing sugar, sifted
60-90 ml heavy/double cream
10ml vanilla extract
30-60 ml caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -

240ml golden syrup
450g cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon/2ml fine sea salt
480 ml heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons/7.5ml pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon/5ml pure vanilla extract
43g unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

A 9-inch/23cm square baking pan
Candy thermometer


Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F/151c. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heal until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F/151c, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F/118c. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f/127c for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F/129; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife.  Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F/107c or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F/109. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer. (recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spinach and Cheese Pie

One dish I like to have on picnics is spinach and cheese pie it is easy and delightful cold or hot. The photo shows a large pie that uses double the quantities in the recipe. Notice how high it is and it looks great on the picnic table.

Spinach and Cheese Pie

Ingredients (Can make one large pie by doubling quantities)
8 Sheets Fillo Pastry
1 bunch spinach
2 medium onions finely chopped
1 bunch of shallots finely chopped
¼ cup oil
400 grams ricotta cheese (or combination of ricotta and feta cheese)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Melted butter

1.Fry finely chopped onion and shallots until translucent.
2.Remove stalks from spinach, triple wash and drain until completely dry.
3.Cut spinach and stalks (optional) into small pieces and place into separate pan over low heat and wait until spinach has wilted.
4.Cool spinach for a few minutes and then drain by squeezing spinach in your hands until completely dry.
5.Beat ricotta cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and oil in a separate bowl and then add onions, shallots and chopped drained spinach. Mix well until combined.
6.Layer a medium sized pie plate/dish turning each layer 45 degrees with seven sheets of fillo pastry, buttering every layer with melted butter. Make sure that you overhang the fillo pastry over the edges of the pie plate/dish.
7.Place the mixture on top of the layered pastry and place the last sheet of buttered fillo pastry over the mixture. Fold in the overhanging ends.
8.Brush the top with melted butter and bake in a preheated moderate (180C/350F) oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. (For large pie bake about 55 minutes).

Variation to use when eating cold
Add 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, ½ tablespoon hot chilli sauce.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lemonade Scones

The easiest and simplest scone recipe in Australia uses lemonade, cream and flour (and optional dried fruit) and this recipe produces the lightest scones. These scones are meant be eaten with jam and whipped cream.

Lemonade Scones:
3 cups of S.R. Flour (S.R.=self rising)
1 cup of cream
1 cup of Lemonade (not flat i.e. still fizzy with bubbles)
1/3 cup of dried fruit (optional)

Mix flour, dried fruit and cream and lemonade. Mixture will be soft. Scrape onto a floured surface. Knead lightly and shape and pat down, do not roll, into a rectangle about 3 cm high. Cut out with a 5cm floured scone cutter, makes 12 scones.

Brush tops with milk or egg wash

Place on tray and put into a hot oven 220C (450F) for about 10mins until tops are golden.

Serve with jam and cream.